Storylines Heading into the NFL Playoffs: Stafford Returns to Detroit, the Cheesehead Empire Rises Again

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford waves at the crowd as he exits the field after the Lions' 28-19 loss to the Rams on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Inglewood, California.

Folks, we made it through the entirety of the regular season, and now, we have the NFL playoffs in front of us.

14 teams remain alive across the league, and this weekend, those teams will begin duking it out for the right to raise the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday, February 11th. With the playoffs about to get underway, here are a few storylines to watch heading into the Wild Card weekend.

1. The Young QBs

NFL Playoffs
Dec 24, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10) looks to pass in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

In their first years as starting QBs, both Jordan Love and C.J. Stroud were able to lead their respective teams to the playoffs. Of course, Stroud taking the Texans to the playoffs as a rookie after they went 3-13-1 in order to take him with the second overall pick is a truly remarkable feat.

Houston clinched a playoff berth with their win over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday and clinched the AFC South title by virtue of Tennessee’s win over Jacksonville. As a result, Houston holds the No. 4 seed in the AFC and will host the Cleveland Browns on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Love’s Packers have caught fire in the second half of the season to clinch the No. 7 seed in the NFC. After a 3-6 start to the year, Green Bay won six of their final eight games to improve to 9-8 and make the playoffs. With their Week 18 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Green Bay will travel to Dallas and take on the Cowboys this weekend in the Wild Card round.

2. Buffalo’s Resurgence

Jan 7, 2024; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) reacts after the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills seemed dead to rights for much of the 2023 season. They began the year with an ugly loss to the New York Jets in Week 1 and struggled their way to a 6-6 record heading into the Week 13 bye.

Since that bye week, though, there has been no hotter team in football than these Bills. They’ve strung together five consecutive wins to conclude the regular season, including wins over the Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, and now the Miami Dolphins in Week 18. With that win over Miami, they clinched the AFC East for the fourth consecutive year and landed the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. They will play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

3. Can Either of the Reigning Conference Champs Get it Together?

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1), left, and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) take the stage at the Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix during the NFL’s Super Bowl Opening Night on Feb. 6, 2023. Nfl Super Bowl Lvii Opening Night Kansas City Chiefs

Heading into the year, it seemed like the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles would be two of the favorites to make the Super Bowl once again. Instead, both of last year’s Super Bowl participants have taken major steps backwards and will have to win playoff games on the road in order to make it back to the big game.

Both Kansas City and Philadelphia finished the year 11-6. The Eagles lost five of their final six games, including losses to the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants over the final two weeks. Those two teams combined for a 10-24 record this season, and now, they will have to figure out how to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road in the Wild Card round.

For Kansas City, it’s been clear for much of the year that something is just off with their offense. They averaged just 21.8 points per game this year, ranking 15th in the league. Since Patrick Mahomes took over at QB, they’ve never ranked lower than sixth. They’ll have to find a way to put points on the board when they host the Miami Dolphins on Saturday.

4. Matthew Stafford vs. Detroit

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) passes during the second half of the game on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Colts lost in overtime, 29-23.

When the Los Angeles Rams acquired Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions, it completely altered the directions of both franchises. The Lions were sent down towards the bottom of the league in 2021 while the Rams immediately went on to win a Super Bowl with their new QB.

Now, just a little less than three years later, the Lions have rebuilt themselves into an NFC powerhouse, going 12-5 and securing their first division title in 30 years. Meanwhile, the Rams were supposed to be a rebuilding team in 2023 after letting a number of pieces go during the offseason, but Stafford’s powers guided them to 10-7 and the No. 6 seed.

As a result, Stafford is set to travel back to Detroit for the first time since the trade in what will surely be a raucous environment for the first home Lions playoff game since January 8th, 1994. This should be an emotional game for all involved. Remember, Jared Goff will also be taking on his old team who he helped guide to a Super Bowl appearance.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.